Thursday, October 27

Focus

There are times that I feel like a damn cat being distracted by a laser pointer. I just can't seem to get my focus together.
This is usually the start of a depressive episode.
You know, like when one of the main characters on ER gets shot or something like that.
No, that's not what I mean. That was a joke.
You know what I mean. Sadness, depression, apathy. That's what I mean. When all you want to do is stay in your bed with the covers pulled up to your nose and pretend to be asleep when anyone comes in the room. When you sit at your desk staring at your computer screen and wondering what the hell you are supposed to do now. When you look out the window and just feel...nothing. It's a hell of a thing, depression. It comes on like a cold. First you might find yourself wandering off somewhere mentally. Not being able to stay on task even though you know there are deadlines and things to get done. Then maybe you feel yourself getting more and more irritable. Maybe you hit snooze a few more times that usual. It's like a sniffle. You can kinda ignore it, but not for long. Sooner or later you know it's going to turn into a full-blown drip fest and you are going to start going through tissues like a vegan goes through tofu. (They eat a lot of tofu because they don't eat meat...I don't know why either.)
Anyway.
This is where I am right now. Yesterday this was just sniffles. Ok, if I have to be honest, sniffles and maybe a little cough too. But today...fuck it man I might as well have typhoid. I know I have shit to do. I just can't seem to do it. I know there is no goddamn reason for me to feel this way.
But I do.
So now what?
I don't have that answer. That was not the start of some inspiring chant about how life is so short and we have to grab it by the nuts and sadness is weakness or get up and smell the roses. In case you were wondering. It was more of a retorical what the fuck now universe kind of a thing. Though if there is some answer out there on the internets please let me know. Hopefully there is an answer in my bed under the covers, because I think that's where I am headed.
Oh and, writers block? Yeah, it's gone.

Friday, September 30

So you wanted to be a student

Graduate school: the final frontier.
Well, we are 5 weeks into the first semester and I gotta tell you - I don't know what I was expecting, but this was not it. This is haaaard. My writing class is more like therapy and my design class is just kicking my butt. I don't feel like I am really putting school anywhere close to the top of the heap and that only means that I am shorting myself of a great experience. There is just so little time for anything these days...
I know, I know. These are all excuses. It's true. Because this is scary. I am being asked to expose parts of myself that I am really unsure of. It's like every doubt and fear I have was waiting behind a gate that is being opened slowly over the course of the semester. I am supposed to be learning how to deal with these doubts, how to work past them but my god this is hard. All I need to do is just do it. So simple, right? Then why is this so hard? I feel like quitting, but for what? To stay in the mediocrity that I have now? Is that what I really want? When I was in NA people would say that it is easy to stay stuck in your shit. Shit is warm. It might smell, but you get used to the smell. When you climb out of your shit the air is cold and unfamiliar. The easy thing to do is go right back where you are comfortable. So do I want to go back into my shit-pile and remain unchallenged, or do I want to climb out into the cold air and do some damn work.
Someone toss me a sweater, I'm coming out.

Friday, January 14

Birthday

Today is the birthday of a very dear friend of mine. I did not get him a present; I will not be sending him a card; we will not be sharing cake together. Last September he died in a car accident on a lonely road in rural Pennsylvania. Somehow, his tiny and ancient Saturn crossed into the lane of an oncoming RV. The family in the RV was fine – there were no injuries to any of them. My friend was not so lucky.
James was a writer. He was more than that really; he was such a big personality that it seems inadequate to describe him as simply a writer or a journalist or a story-teller. He was this larger than life figure who would leave you curled in the fetal position, tears streaming down your face from laughter one day, then tell a tale that would break your heart into a million pieces the next. He was dedicated to his newspaper reporting despite his own admission that his chosen media was in its death throes. Even after working 12 hour days he still found time to write letters to political prisoners thorough Amnesty International and was always the first to get his Christmas cards mailed.
Like so many important moments in life, the moment I found out he was gone is a crystal clear memory that plays in my mind when I am least expecting. It was a Monday afternoon, about 3:30. I had just finished nursing Sophie, my then two month old. My other daughter Azania was finishing her homework at the dining room table. My cell phone rang and because it was next to her, Azania brought it to me and, seeing that it was her uncle Brad, pushed talk. I gave her my face that meant ‘don’t answer mommy’s phone because I wanted it to go to voice mail’ – a face that is beyond a 7 year olds comprehension.
“Hey Brad what’s up?”
“James. James is dead.”
I knew this was not a joke. I wanted this to be a joke, and even though Brad is one for pranks, this was not something he would ever joke about. He repeated himself and I could feel the blood draining from my face, tears welling up and spilling over, my voice shaking and thin. I looked at my children – two beautiful girls who are so full of love and joy. The older one was looking concerned at my tears, the little one looking content and full, only slightly interested by the change in my voice.
We hung up and I just cried, wishing I had answered more of his phone calls, wishing I had called him back, wishing that I could have just one more day with him. I took him for granted. I avoided his phone calls because I did not want to hear about his problems. I did not want to talk about mental illness or dating or political prisoners. I did not want to tell him what I was feeling – that maybe this job I had been going after was a big mistake. Maybe the dream of a political science PhD was someone else’s dream. Maybe I had no idea what I was doing with my life, and was terrified that I would be swimming around in this limbo forever.
James would regularly tell me that I needed to write. I would usually try to change the subject, trying to shake off his encouragement because – why? I don’t even know now. Because I could hear the words in my head but there was something stuck between the words and the vast space of the blank page. Because when I did write I felt like my 13 year old self writing angst-y, unfocused poetry that was too heavy on the metaphor and too light on the substance. I felt like I could not live up to whatever it was he saw in me, so why even start.
It seems so clich̩ to say now that he is gone, to honor his memory I have decided to dedicate my life to writing. It is clich̩, but it is also partly true. I want to honor his memory Рnot only because I think he was a spectacular person who more people should have known, but also because I want to be the person he knew I could be.
A small thing to some, but mailing Christmas cards was an event I dedicated to James. While he would have his out by black Friday, I would find myself staring at my unopened and un-mailed box of cards well after the New Year. This year, though I did not start on Thanksgiving, I did manage to get my cards mailed before Christmas.
The other way I will honor his memory is to write. I will do what he knew I loved even when I refused to acknowledge it. I will honor him with words.
Happy Birthday, dear James.